Surely, if you’ve been in church circles for very long at all, you have heard the word “gospel.” Perhaps you’ve heard it in reference to the first four books of the New Testament – that these are the “gospels.” Or maybe you think of the content of the gospel – the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Or perhaps you don’t think about what the word means at all – it’s just one of those church words that you’ve been accustomed to and so it has just drifted into regular usage in your vocabulary.
From time to time, it’s a good and right thing for us to think about the words we are using – especially when those words are spiritual in nature – lest we become numb and cold to their meaning. So even though we might have various thoughts in our minds when we hear the word “gospel,” the most literal translation of the word is just this:
And both of those words are important.
The gospel is good. Very good. The most good. And we can really only see the true goodness of the gospel when we are in touch with the true “badness” of the issue it addresses. Namely, that we are, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2, dead in our sins and trespasses. Moreover, this “deadness” is a condition – one in which we are powerless. We can’t change our own condition. But the “good” news is that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died a substitutionary death on our behalf. This is good – that while we were still sinners and undeserving in all respects, Christ died for us.
But the gospel is also “news.” And that’s important too. Make no mistake – the gospel is not primarily a program, or a task, or even a mission. It is news. It is a declaration. It is a statement of what is. This is how all “news” should be – a pronouncement of what is, not what people think or some subtle spin on the facts. News should be true. The question ought to be, in an ideal sense, not whether the news is true, but how we will react to it. And though, it seems, we have less and less confidence in many sources of news, of this we should be sure – that the announcement we find about who Jesus is and what He is done is actually, really, completely true.
Good. News. And if that’s true, the question is indeed what we will do with that which has been declared to us.